By December 4, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

Dani and Zakee making their way to the top

Dani Chambers and Rosewood Zakee cut a fine figure in the dressage arena.

Dani Chambers and Rosewood Zakee cut a fine figure in the dressage arena.

Dani Chambers and Rosewood Zakee are a combination new to the Arabian ring. Dani is 13 years old, has been riding on and off since she was four, but seriously since she was nine.

From nine to 13 she was on a variety of lease ponies as good ponies are expensive to buy (for those who don’t know $5000 gets you a very average pony) and with an anti-equine father there was no other way for her to ride.  So she was trained on a series of ponies with problems ranging from the welsh pony who wasn’t really suitable for first ridden (he taught Dani to steer and sit out bucking) to a welsh/riding pony with very little experience (he taught Dani to steer better, sit out bigger bucks, how to get left lead canter in a pony that only does right lead and how to get back up off the ground and back on the pony), a Connemara (how to hang onto a very strong pony, how to train a jumping pony to do dressage and how to bounce off jumps and get back on the pony) and a riding pony/trakhener (how to sit a bolt, how to teach a pony to jump and how to slow a very forward moving pony down for dressage).  All of which has resulted in a 13 year old girl with far more skills than most children who have ready- made ponies bought for them.

Dani and Zakee in the showhunter ring.

Dani and Zakee in the showhunter ring.

While all this was happening Zakee was sitting in the paddock at home, a non-descript little grey gelding by Redwood Lodge Calais from Zelina.  Zakee was Zelina’s last foal as cancer caught up with her a year later.  As Dani got taller I decided to start two geldings under saddle with the idea that the easier of the two could be her next pony after the trakhener x.  Zakee definitely fitted the bill, in spite of minimal handling as he was growing, he took to everything in a very sensible, calm fashion.  I got him to the point where both Dani and I were riding him round the yard, and then sent him to Jeff Hill to finish, as I kept running out of time to work him and wanted to be able to just jump on him and go.  Jeff did a beautiful job, and Zakee has never looked back.  Within 6 months I had taken him to his first dressage comp where he placed 5th in his first test and Dani had taken him to Roydvale PC jumping day where he placed 4th overall and 1st for style in a class of 45 entries.  That was just the start.

Their first show was the 2014 Nationals (nothing like starting in the deep end!) where they took out the Hi Point Youth award over older competitors (Dani was 12 and Zakee 5).  However showing is not Dani’s  main focus,  apart from doing Arabian sections/shows that have costume classes, something she absolutely loves.  They gave a spectacular demonstration of a sliding halt from a gallop in the costume class at Canterbury show recently, unfortunately the halt was a little too enthusiastic and Zakee ended up sitting on the ground as Dani rolled off his quarters!  Neither was hurt, it just took a while to get the grass stains off Zakee before the ridden turnout.

Dani took over riding Zakee full time 3 months ago, and since then they have been out most weekends to either a comp or pony club.  Dani has continued with dressage, competing in unregistered classes at present (I have promised her she can register with ESNZ in the new year as she wants to compete in the jumping) usually placing and often winning, all the more impressive when you realise they are usually competing against adults.  They have just started level two tests and are enjoying the challenge.  More than anything Dani loves to jump, and they are now show-jumping at 85cm with regular wins and placings.  Eventing is where Dani really does well, as the dressage training puts her in good stead.  Dani & Zakee have done one so far, View Hill – the last for Canterbury until next season; competing at 65cm, they won the dressage, had a beautiful clear s/j round and apart from a slight reluctance on the part of the Arabian to go into the very muddy water hole (could have been anything  lurking in it!) resulting in 18 time faults, they would have got round the x/c except for a minor technicality of Dani missing a jump resulting in their elimination.  Now she can’t wait for the next ode; I don’t think she’ll make that mistake again!

Training at Rangiora Pony Club's cross-country grounds.

Training at Rangiora Pony Club’s cross-country grounds.

Over Labour weekend the pair of them showed just how versatile the Arabian can be.  On the Friday they were show-jumping at the Rangiora A&P (5th both classes), on Saturday they were showing in the Arabian section, including costume – a first for both, and a costume demonstration in the main arena after the class (they both had grins on after galloping around for 10 mins), and on the Monday was the ode.  Zakee may be just a little grey gelding, but in the time Dani has been riding him they have done more for the Arabian breed than  probably all last years’ National champions put together.  The children at Okuku pc love him, especially the wee girl who got to ride him after she fell off her pony and hurt her foot; dressage judges like him – Soo Wells (grand prix dressage rider) thinks he has real potential as a dressage pony, Dani’s jumping instructor Tracey Kovacs thinks he’s a dude, and I have had people approach me at jumping comps with the view to using an Arabian stallion because they like the way he jumps.

These two have only just started together, by the time you read this they will have competed at Courtenay A&P (another costume class), jumped for their pony club as part of the Windsor Trophy team (85 cm 16 &under), trialled for the Canterbury Pony Club’s dressage team to contest the National dressage title (I’ll let you know if she gets in), and probably at least another 1 or 2 jumping/dressage days as well.  Next year her focus will be on eventing at 80 – 95 cm as she REALLY wants to be part of Okuku’s Springston Trophy team.  Dani says Zakee has ruined her for riding any other breed now, and she fast-talked/nagged and bullied me until I bred two of my mares (Naahrah by Naaddel and Rhiannon by Kandahar Ibn Kazra) to my young stallion Al Farid (River Oak Colorado from an Arabian Park Tycoon mare) this season.  Ollie hasn’t been bred from before, so it will be very exciting to see the babies, especially as Zakee was the last foal I bred.  Dani gets to choose which one she wants (assuming we get two of course, and that they will be tall enough for her) and is looking forward to having her own baby to handle right from the beginning.  But in the meantime, watch out for a tall blonde teen on a chunky fleabitten pony, they intend to go places.


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